Sailing aboard the Sunderland is like traveling back in time to an earlier era, when the world was a different place and tall ships ruled the seas. The topsail schooner was originally built in 1885 in Lowescroft, England, when she was christened with the name Civil Lord. Built with solid English oak, the 110-foot boat, renamed Sunderland when working out of the English town of the same name, has been earning her keep ever since. For the last several years, this gorgeous old seagoing treasure has provided the most traditional sailing experience in Los Cabos, with scenic tours around Bahia San Lucas and Land’s End providing a glimpse into the piratical past of Los Cabos.
The Sunderland boasts a very experienced crew, and the sight of them clambering up the rigging, as well as the creaking sounds of old rope and an old boat upon the ocean, is beyond charming. There is something about the experience that approaches awe. They don’t make boats like this anymore, and there are very few tall ships left anywhere in the world. The Sunderland, far from losing her beauty over the years, has held up quite well. She still has one of her original masts, and the only addition to the boat over the past 126 years was the installation of an inboard diesel engine in 1954. Watching the captain start the engine is a treat for the mechanically inclined, as it requires a 32-step process, with each step having to be done in the correct sequential order. But the best times aboard the Sunderland are when the engine is off, and she can show off all of her sails in the brisk winds beyond Land’s End.
The boat has recently changed ownership, with Clint Schue and Jesse Chamberlain acquiring the Sunderland from long time owner Mark Belvedere in February 2011. Since the ownership transfer there have been few operational changes, with snorkeling, whale watching, and sunset cruises continuing largely as before (all tours include an open bar, sandwiches, and chips and salsa). There are some obvious cosmetic changes, with the boat’s name painted in large letters along the starboard side, and the crew back in the piratical duds of yesteryear, obviously signaling a desire on the part of the new owners to challenge faux pirate ships like the Buccaneer Queen and Scurvy Dawg for tourist dollars. Let’s hope they don’t put too much more makeup on her. She’s a lady, and deserves to be treated like one. Treat yourself by taking a voyage aboard the oldest and most beautiful sailing vessel in all of Mexico.